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“Why I can’t be Episcopalian”
Pontifications ^ | 6/05/2005 | Anonymous

Posted on 06/05/2005 2:40:04 PM PDT by sionnsar

A long-time reader of Pontifications sent me the following article today. He wrote it primarily for the benefit of himself and his family; but as soon as I read it, I knew I had a Pontifications “exclusive.” The author is happy to have it published here on the blog, with the stipulation of anonymity. Read and be edified.

When I was confirmed at age ten, and again when I reaffirmed as an adult, I believed the Episcopal Church was committed to some fundamental principles. These principles included the Bible as authoritative Word of God, the Nicene Creed as authoritative summary of Biblical faith, worship according to the Book of Common Prayer, the sacraments of the universal church, and fellowship with the worldwide Anglican Communion. I am now convinced that it is not actually committed to any of these things.


Traditional Anglicanism, while not fundamentalist or literalist, had a very high view of the authority of the Bible. Richard Hooker wrote, “What Scripture doth plainly deliver, to that first place both of credit and obedience is due; the next whereunto is whatsoever any man can necessarily conclude by force of reason; after these the voice of the Church succeedeth.” And the 39 Articles state, “It is not lawful for the Church to ordain any thing that is contrary to God’s Word written.” I have long been in agreement with these traditional Anglican belief about scripture. But does the Episcopal Church today believe these things? I am convinced it does not. I can find no statement about the Bible on the Episcopal Church website that is at all similar to the teachings of Hooker and the 39 Articles. Instead I find vague material like this:

While Christians universally acknowledge the Bible (or the Holy Scriptures) as the Word of God and completely sufficient to our reconciliation to God, what the Bible says must always speak to us in our own time and place.

Based on the text of the Bible itself, and what Christians have taught us about it through the ages, we then must sort out our own understanding of it as it relates to our own lives.

To me an “authority” is something you obey even when you disagree with it or don’t understand it. My boss is an authority to me at work: that means I do what he says even when I don’t like or understand it. For a church to take the Bible as an authority means it can sometimes say “we don’t really like what it says here, but it clearly does say it, so this is what we have to do.” From my observations of how the church debates hot issues it is clear to me that the church no longer has any intention of ever submitting to a Biblical teaching, no matter how clear, if it is unpopular.

If the official statements of the church are not traditional, what is the church’s relationship to the Bible like in practice? Does it in fact treat the Bible as an authority which the church may not contradict? From my observations of how the church actually decides controversial issues, I am convinced the answer is no.

Here are some telling quotes:

“Broadly speaking, the Episcopal Church is in conflict with Scripture” [Bishop Frank Griswold, shortly before he became Presiding Bishop]

“Just simply to say that something goes against tradition and the teaching of the church and Scripture does not necessarily make it wrong.” [Bishop Gene Robinson of New Hampshire]

“Because we wrote the Bible, we can rewrite it. We have rewritten the Bible many times.” [Bishop Charles Bennison of Pennsylvania]


The Nicene Creed was composed by the church in the 4th century as the outcome of a lot of very serious conflict and debate. Every line was written very carefully with a specific intention of refuting a real or potential heresy. The church declared that anyone who could not agree to every line of it could not remain in communion with the church; great saints like Athanasius risked death or exile rather than compromise on a single letter of it.

Historic Anglicanism firmly endorsed the Nicene Creed as true and authoritative: The Nicene Creed… ought thoroughly to be received and believed: for [it] may be proved by most certain warrants of Holy Scripture [Article VIII of 39 Articles]. Does the Episcopal Church teach that the Nicene Creed is true and authoritative? I have concluded that it does not.

On the Episcopal Church website I can find no unambiguous affirmation that the Nicene Creed is true. I do find some statements that somewhat parallel most of the material in the Creed. There is also material that seems to endorse the contrary heresy of modalism. In worship, the church does strongly encourage the recitation of the creed, but it in practice this is optional. But most tellingly, it is clear that bishops can repudiate any item of the creed without any consequences. Bishop John Shelby Spong suffered no official rebuke or consequences as a result of his 1998 Call For A New Reformation. Here are parts of his “twelve these,” interleaved with corresponding parts of the Nicene Creed:

Theism, as a way of defining God is dead.
I believe in God, the Father Almighty

It becomes nonsensical to seek to understand Jesus as the incarnation of the theistic deity
eternally begotten of the Father, God from God, Light from Light, true God from true God, begotten, not made, of one Being with the Father.

The virgin birth, understood as literal biology, makes Christ’s divinity, as traditionally understood, impossible.
by the power of the Holy Spirit he became incarnate from the Virgin Mary, and was made man.

The view of the cross as the sacrifice for the sins of the world is a barbarian idea based on primitive concepts of God and must be dismissed.
For our sake he was crucified under Pontius Pilate

Spong is not unique in denying most of the Creed. Matthew Fox (priest in the Diocese of California) states on his website “Theism is false.” I’ve seen many other examples that I don’t have time to dig up.

How many other bishops, clergy and lay leaders are just plain lying when they recite the Creed? I have no idea, but based on a lot of reading and on sermons I have heard, I am convinced that the number is not small. The Episcopal Church does not require anyone to believe the Creed is true; it just strongly encourages people to be respectful toward it as a symbol. And not everyone even does that.

Book of Common Prayer

Having a common prayer book seems like a wonderful idea. For hundreds of years you could go to an Anglican church pretty much anywhere in the world, and certainly in your own country, and expect to know the service by heart. The prayers articulated a very definite theology and Anglicans could once say lex orandi, lex credendi, what we pray is what we believe. Why did the church abandon this tradition? I have no idea, but it did. The 1979 prayer book is quite unlike the prayer books that went before it. It allows so many variations that two parishes can both follow it and have services that are hardly recognizable as belonging to the same tradition. And in practice, hardly anyone really follows even the very loose rules it sets. The Episcopal Church is no longer a church united by common prayer.


When I was a boy I was taught that the church had seven sacraments that it shared with the true church throughout the world: Baptism, Confirmation, Communion, Reconciliation, Unction, Matrimony, and Orders. As an adult I learned that actually many Episcopalians only accepted two of these as true sacraments: Baptism and Communion. In my lifetime significant changes were made in some of the other five. Confirmation, which had once been required before admittance to communion, became optional. Ordination, which had always been limited to men, was opened to women after amazingly little meaningful debate.

But I understood as an adult that baptism and communion were the absolutely essential, non- negotiable marks of a legitimate Christian church: “The visible Church of Christ is a congregation of faithful men, in which the pure Word of God is preached, and the Sacraments be duly ministered according to Christ’s ordinance, in all those things that of necessity are requisite to the same” (Article XIX of the 39 Articles). One thing that the church has always required for Communion to be “duly ministered” is that it be limited to baptized Christians in good standing with the church, a practice which has sound biblical basis in 1 Cor 11. To this day the Episcopal Church’s official canons state No unbaptized person shall be eligible to receive Holy Communion in this Church [Canon 17 Section 7].

No one ever expected churches to check people’s baptismal certificates at the altar rail. But the widespread practice today of openly inviting people to communion without baptism is unprecedented in 2000 years of church tradition. It has no foundation in scripture. It took root without any meaningful theological debate about what it meant. It is a flagrant violation of the church’s own laws. And in my opinion it makes complete nonsense of both sacraments.

And as if “open communion” weren’t enough, the church is now beginning to see “open baptism” – the practice of offering baptism without any preconditions whatever: St. Christopher’s by-the-Sea is one of several Episcopal churches in the Diocese of Southeast Florida that offers Baptism “with no strings attached.” Anyone who seeks to be baptized, or to have a child baptized, is welcome without regard to their church membership, their faith tradition or other factors…. The practice of Open Baptism has been growing in the Episcopal Diocese of Southeast Florida recently with the encouragement of the Rt. Rev. Leopold Frade, bishop of the diocese.

Can one say that in the Episcopal Church today, “the sacraments are duly ministered according to Christ’s ordinance in all those things that of necessity are requisite to the same”? Sometimes, yes, and sometimes no, but increasingly the answer is no.

The Anglican Communion

The Preamble to the Constitution of the Episcopal Church states: The Episcopal Church… is a constituent member of the Anglican Communion, a Fellowship within the One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church, of those duly constituted Dioceses, Provinces, and regional Churches in communion with the See of Canterbury, upholding and propagating the historic Faith and Order as set forth in the Book of Common Prayer.

Many Episcopal churches make a big deal about this; I read about it in parish brochures and parish websites; it is taught as important in inquirers’ classes. It sounds important. But is it important, and is it true? Is it important to the Episcopal Church to be a constituent member of the Anglican Communion, and does the Episcopal Church uphold and propagate the historic faith and order of that communion? My answers are no and no.

The second part (propagating the historic faith and order) I’ve covered in other sections. As to membership: what is the state of the Episcopal Church’s membership in the Anglican Communion, and how important is the Anglican Communion to the Church? According to Episcopal News Service, nine of the 38 worldwide Anglican provinces have declared themselves to be in “impaired” or “broken communion” with all or part of the Episcopal Church in the United States. This includes some of the largest provinces such as Uganda and Nigeria. And in February 2005, the primates of the communion made these requests to the Episcopal Church: “We request that the Episcopal Church… voluntarily withdraw [its] members from the Anglican Consultative Council for the period leading up to the next Lambeth Conference.”

The Episcopal Church’s membership in the Anglican Communion is in grave jeopardy and I think it is unlikely to last much longer. The reason things got to this point, and the reason I think there is no going back, is that the Episcopal Church does not really respect the Anglican Communion or place a very high value on its membership.

The occasion for the crisis is the Episcopal Church’s teaching and practice regarding homosexuality. In the 1980s parts of the church began ordaining openly gay men and women and allowing the blessing of same sex unions. This led to the debate at the 1998 Lambeth Conference which overwhelmingly declared that “homosexual practice [is] contrary to scripture and [we] cannot advise the legitimising or blessing of same sex unions nor ordaining those involved in same gender unions.”

Lambeth Conference resolutions are not legally binding on the Episcopal Church, but it is still striking how thoroughly the church disregarded this verdict. It had no visible effect whatsoever on the church’s practice. Observation of this fact led two provinces to establish the Anglican Mission in America in 2000, which amounted to a de facto break in communion with the Episcopal Church. In 2003 the Episcopal Church took dramatic new steps by electing a (noncelibate) gay man, Gene Robinson, as bishop, and by formally endorsing the development of liturgies for blessing same sex unions.

The Anglican Communion held an emergency meeting of primates to respond to this, and that meeting condemned both actions and declared: “If [Robinson’s] consecration proceeds, we recognise that we have reached a crucial and critical point in the life of the Anglican Communion and we have had to conclude that the future of the Communion itself will be put in jeopardy. In this case, the ministry of this one bishop will not be recognised by most of the Anglican world, and many provinces are likely to consider themselves to be out of Communion with the Episcopal Church (USA). This will tear the fabric of our Communion at its deepest level…” Presiding Bishop Frank Griswold signed this statement, then returned to the US and presided at the consecration of Gene Robinson. In other words, he (and the rest of the church) proceeded with the full knowledge that their action would jeopardize the survival of the Anglican Communion and particularly the Episcopal Church’s membership in it.

Clearly the Episcopal Church does not regard membership in the Anglican Communion as essential, and regards something else as much, much more important. What is it that is so important that it is worth shattering the Anglican Communion over?

The Real Basis

If the Episcopal Church is not committed to the Bible, the Creed, the Prayer Book, the sacraments, or the Anglican Communion, what is it committed to? There is some strong principle guiding the church and giving it the collective confidence to overthrow all its traditions and break all its traditional bonds of unity. I am convinced that that something is a new, non-Christian theology combined with the conviction that the Episcopal Church has received new unique revelations from the Holy Spirit.

A representative sample of the theology that is taking over the church can be found at the Center For Progressive Christianity. The CPC was founded by an Episcopal priest, has one Episcopal bishop on its executive council and another on its list of “honorary advisors.” Here is an excerpt from the organizations official principles:

We are Christians who… 1. Have found an approach to God through the life and teachings of Jesus; 2. Recognize the faithfulness of other people who have other names for the way to God’s realm, and acknowledge that their ways are true for them, as our ways are true for us; 3. Understand the sharing of bread and wine in Jesus’s name to be a representation of an ancient vision of God’s feast for all peoples; 4. Invite all people to participate in our community and worship life without insisting that they become like us in order to be acceptable (including but not limited to): believers and agnostics.

Is this statement Christian? In my opinion, absolutely not. It is Unitarian Universalism. But the center’s website lists 68 Episcopal parishes that have officially and publicly affiliated with this organization and endorsed the principles above. They come from all over the country, so evidently a great many bishops have no objection to their parishes’ affiliating with it. If that many parishes are officially connected to this organization, my common sense tells me there are a great many more that are generally sympathetic to this point of view.

This is not yet the official, public theology of the Episcopal Church, and I’m not saying this particular organization is secretly running the church either. But my conclusion, based on a mix of specific documented facts and anecdotal evidence, is that these beliefs are in fact the practical working theology of the church’s leadership including many bishops, and of a great many parishes in our area and around the country. It makes perfect sense of the otherwise incomprehensible move to “open communion.” It makes sense of the ways that parishes are revising the prayer book. It makes sense of how the debate over sexuality has proceeded. It makes sense of almost everything I see happening in the church—whereas imagining that the church is still committed to its ancient formularies (Bible, Creed and Prayer Book) does not. Having abandoned all its traditional founding principles, the church is increasingly justifying everything it does by appealing to the Holy Spirit. What I hear and read more and more is that Episcopalians should trust the Holy Spirit to work through the General Convention of the Church. One diocesan bishop wrote to his diocese something like “the most important thing is that we be true to the special revelation the Spirit has given us.” (I can’t find the exact quote any more.) But history and the Bible both teach that one should be extremely skeptical of groups that claim to have special revelations from the Holy Spirit. Such claims are usually the mark of a sect or cult. The Bible says “do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are of God; for many false prophets have gone out into the world.” How do we test a church’s claim that its new teachings are the work of the Holy Spirit? Check them against the Bible. Check them against the historic teaching of the church. Check them against the teachings of the rest of the church worldwide. And most important, test whether those making the claim are preaching the core of the Gospel: the incarnation, the cross, the resurrection.

The Episcopal Church’s claims fail all these tests. Its new teachings are not supported by the Bible, by tradition, or the rest of the Anglican Communion or most other Christian churches. And most important, the leaders of its new teachings do not teach the core of the gospel. Many do not believe in the incarnation, the atonement, the resurrection, or even in God. Why should I trust an assembly of a church that does not require its members to believe in God, to believe that Jesus is the Son of God, or even (now) to be baptized, to receive special revelations from the Holy Spirit that put it ahead of the rest of the Christian world? I don’t.


The Episcopal Church today is no longer governed by the Bible, the Creeds, the Book of Common Prayer, or the faith and practice of the Anglican Communion. It is governed by the votes of a collection of people who choose to call themselves Episcopalians. Some of these people have traditional Anglican beliefs, many have their own eccentric private versions of Christianity, and a great many are quite openly unitarian and universalist in their beliefs. Quite a few are openly hostile to traditional Anglican beliefs. The practical working consensus seems to be unitarian and universalist in reality but with ritual lip service paid to trinitarian belief. The Bible is taught as being inspiring but not authoritative. The creeds are taught as symbols of continuity with historic Christianity, but not as true.

Can such an assembly be called a Christian Church? I can’t bring myself to call it that. Granted, there are still a lot of Christians in the Episcopal Church, and there are some wonderful parishes. But the denomination is not committed to anything I can call Christianity. I was baptized and confirmed as an Episcopalian and a Christian. I am still a Christian. But I can no longer in good conscience call myself Episcopalian. I cannot support the denomination. And I do not trust it as a place to provide a Christian upbringing for our children. One soon-to- be-former Episcopal priest writes:

Do we want to raise our children as Episcopalians? The question is most acutely felt if one lives within a revisionist diocese. How do parents explain to their children that “We are Episcopalians … but we disagree with everything the Episcopal Church teaches … and therefore we do not want you attending any diocesan functions … nor are you permitted to visit any other Episcopal parish, unless we have previously investigated the orthodoxy of its rector.” Parents need to confront the reality that by the time their children grow up, there will not be an orthodox Episcopal congregation anywhere that will be safe for them.

Even if there were an Episcopal parish nearby that I thought was really wonderful, I don’t think I could join it today, though I would be sorely tempted. I must take the absence of a really attractive parish as a gift that makes it easier to do what I have to do, and find a real church. I don’t think I’m under any illusions about finding a “perfect” church or denomination. I am not looking for perfection. But I am looking for a church with a real, meaningful commitment to the truth.

TOPICS: Mainline Protestant
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1 posted on 06/05/2005 2:40:04 PM PDT by sionnsar
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To: ahadams2; coffeecup; Paridel; keilimon; Hermann the Cherusker; wagglebee; St. Johann Tetzel; ...
[As a cradle (and former) Episcopalian, this saddens me. But I think he has the truth of it. --sionnsar]

Traditional Anglican ping, continued in memory of its founder Arlin Adams.

FReepmail sionnsar if you want on or off this moderately high-volume ping list (typically 3-7 pings/day).
This list is pinged by sionnsar and newheart.

Resource for Traditional Anglicans:

Speak the truth in love. Eph 4:15

2 posted on 06/05/2005 2:42:09 PM PDT by sionnsar (†† || Iran Azadi || Fraud in WA: More votes than voters!)
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To: sionnsar
“Just simply to say that something goes against tradition and the teaching of the church and Scripture does not necessarily make it wrong.” [Bishop Gene Robinson of New Hampshire]

Oh boy! This guy doesn't have a clue what a bishop is. The role of a bishop is to be a successor of the apostles and to preserve and teach the deposit of faith as found in Scripture and Sacred Tradition. That's why episcopal consecrations involve laying on of hands, there is an objective handing on of the apostolic Tradition down through the ages. Why can't these people simply admit that they are inventing a new religion out of whole cloth, and simply have an amicable divorce with orthodox Christian believers in their denomination?

3 posted on 06/05/2005 3:00:46 PM PDT by Unam Sanctam
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To: Unam Sanctam
It could happen.
4 posted on 06/05/2005 3:04:40 PM PDT by sionnsar (†† || Iran Azadi || Fraud in WA: More votes than voters!)
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To: sionnsar

Your friend has received a loud calling out of Babylon.

5 posted on 06/05/2005 3:17:25 PM PDT by kerryusama04 (God Bless.)
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To: sionnsar

That was incredibly powerful. I feel really stupid now, I've been so mad at the RC Church over the Latin Mass. Look what you Episcopalians have been putting up with for all these years. Those horrid felt banners are nothing compared with all this.

Good luck to this man, he'll need it.

6 posted on 06/05/2005 3:27:58 PM PDT by jocon307
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To: jocon307
That was incredibly powerful. I feel really stupid now, I've been so mad at the RC Church over the Latin Mass.

You shouldn't feel stupid. They're much the same forces in both churches. But take heed and warning from ECUSA's example.

7 posted on 06/05/2005 3:50:04 PM PDT by sionnsar (†† || Iran Azadi || Fraud in WA: More votes than voters!)
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To: sionnsar

"You shouldn't feel stupid. They're much the same forces in both churches. But take heed and warning from ECUSA's example."

They are very much the same forces in both Churches, especially in America.

When it all began, for the Catholics back at Vatican II, it was in a sense forgiveable. There were things in the pre-Vatican II Church that didn't work well, and there was a genuine desire to reform. Both John Paul II and Benedict XVI supported Vatican II.

But flexibility was taken as license, and bad things happened.

Bad things have happened in the Episcopalian Church too.

The Catholic Church seems to have pulled back from the brink and is now proceeding in a direction that may well cause the liberal Catholics in America to simply stop coming to church.

The Episcopalian Church seems to have come to the brink and headed right over it like a runaway train, dragging along its parishoners with it.

Why the difference?

The only visible thing I can discern is the difference in authority. Papal authority is, and will no doubt always remain, the bugbear of Catholicism as far as both Protestants and the Orthodox are concerned. Here is an instance where, whether one agrees with it or not, it demonstrates its utility.

In the Episcopalian Church, the bishops are in communion with Canterbury, etc., and it is all fine rhetoric, but if Episcopalian Bishops take a turn that sharply differs from the theology of the Archbishop of Canterbury, who ULTIMATELY decides? Who has the FINAL authority? The bishop himself. If he is alone, he will get squeezed out. But if several bishops agree, that is it. Episcopalian America has decided that homosexuality is not a sin, and that open gays should be bishops. Canterbury does not seem to agree, but it doesn't matter. A plurality of Episcopalian Bishops in America sets the law for America.

In the Catholic Church, the Pope is the prince. He has binding and absolute authority. If all of the bishops in America unanimously agree to defy him, they're all excommunicated and damned to Hell, and individual Catholics in America, and everywhere else in the world, are bound to obey the Pope over any subsidiary authority.
There isn't any ARGUMENT about this. It's a point of THEOLOGY, not just ecclesiology.

Like it or hate it...and the Anglican Communion exists in the first place because a lot of people hated the idea, and still hate it, it is why the American Catholic Bishops, however much some want to, have not been able to take the American Church over the cliff with them (for all their worst efforts at some points). They are lieutenants. They are NOT supreme. They are subjects of the Pope, removable by the Pope, and ultimately answerable to the Pope. So long as the center holds and the Pope does not lapse into apostasy, the worst some bishop, or a whole continent of bishops, can do is to go into which point they cease to be bishops. There is no dodge around it.

Of course, if the center ever folds in the Catholic Church, if the Pope himself ever lapses over into the popular obsessions and idiocies, it's all over for Catholicism. Catholics believe, as a theological matter, that God will not let that happen. Protestants are unconvinced of that divine protection of the papacy (indeed, if they accepted it, they would be Catholics!)

8 posted on 06/06/2005 4:07:04 AM PDT by Vicomte13 (Et alors?)
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To: sionnsar

Thanks for posting this. I finally got together with Fr. Kimel last week for a few beers at the local Johnstown brewery (we had been promising each other to get together on a social basis for quite some time), and we had a wonderful conversation. Your loss is certainly our gain.

9 posted on 06/06/2005 6:23:43 AM PDT by St. Johann Tetzel (Sometimes "Defending the Faith" means you have to be willing to get your hands dirty...)
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To: Vicomte13

I have been reading all these threads with increasing sadness and even pity for ECUSA. I was there when it went into apostasy and so I know from the inside what it feels like to have your bishop simply exert his authority to insist you not believe what you have always been taught (and, in my case, have come back to realize was correct, true and salvific after years in the wilderness thinking I could reconstruct it).

So I agree with most of the comments here. I only point out that the RCC has had episodes of papal incompetence and even misguidedness, which she has survived. This can only be the rectifying work of the Holy Spirit. He is also working within the Anglican tradition though the historical rejection of strict authority has made the work that much harder. It really is like trying to herd cats to get Anglicans to all head in the same theological and/or liturgical direction.

So the work of trying to preserve and transmit the Anglican tradition of the Catholic faith goes on, a very fulfilling work. It is also fraught with frustrations because in terms of a human life, it goes slowly. But, that is a teaching in itself. To work to keep the True Faith alive is to dedicate oneself to a project easily greater than the spans of the lives of anyone who takes it on. When the gale is blowing, preserving even a flickering candle is an achievement and an offering to God.

In Christ,
Deacon Paul+

10 posted on 06/06/2005 6:47:44 AM PDT by BelegStrongbow (I think, therefore I vote Republican)
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To: BelegStrongbow

I hope that you are right.

Truly I do.

Obviously I buy into the THEOLOGY of papal supremacy and infallibility (or else I would not bother to remain a Catholic), and so I have faith that the Pope cannot ultimately fail, because God won't let him.

But it's faith.
I could be dead wrong. The Renaissance Popes, after all, included some pretty bad actors. They never made doctrinal pronouncements that changed any of the sacraments or reversed the sacred traditions...but they certainly had a lot of people killed and committed grotesque acts of evil. For me, there is comfort in the fact that, as bad as they were, the Renaissance Popes never attempted to unwind the sacred traditions or to proclaim their own apostate infallible doctrines.

So, paradoxical as it might seem, I look at the really bad popes of the 1400s and 1500s as proof that God won't let the Church fail. Murderers wore the miter in some cases, and by doing so they damaged the reputation of the Church, but none of them ever was moved to use his power to actually pull apart the foundations of the Church.

It could be that this was indeed the divine protection I believe it to be.
But it could also be luck, conservatism, and even the fact that there wasn't money to be made or power to be gained for those bad men by tampering with esoteric religious doctrines. Why stir up a hornet's nest over trans-substantiation when you can sell indulgences at will and entertain your mistresses in the papal apartments.

There has not yet been a pope, however bad, who has gone down the road that the American Episcopalian Bishops have. If one ever does, then we know that there is no Papal Infallibility, or infallibility of the Church, and that Satan can even take that over.

We don't know that yet, though, because at the very worst moment, the immediate Reformation Era papacy, those awful popes were venal and violent, but they weren't theologians and didn't attempt to do what the Episcopalian bishops are attempting.

Now, again thinking theologically, from a Catholic perspective, in the anchor at Rome against what is happening with the ECUSA, I believe I see the REASON God made Peter the Pope and invested him and his successor with the monarchical power over the Church that Catholicism claims he has. I think it is precisely to have the final authority of God's vicar on earth, who cannot fail, and who can literally command the rest of Christianity to desist from an error with the authority of God Himself. "What you bind on earth shall be bound in Heaven" and all that.

I look and see the problem in ECUSA of having the sacraments and having the priests, having the right traditions, being holy, but having nobody with the literal authority of God to command and compel obedience on a spiritual issue when Satan erupts and starts possessing souls. Canterbury cannot exorcise the Devil from the Church, because he can only advise his brother bishops. He cannot hold the power of the Keys, granted by Jesus to Peter, over them and pronounce words with the authority of God.

I don't think that human law itself can hold up without the appeal to revelation, and I don't think revelation itself holds up if all men are equal to interpret it. I really do believe that God foresaw all of this, which is why he provided a single monarch for Christianity, who would be the oracle of God in such matters and be God's vicar on earth, to loose and to bind.

This is the theological interpretation of the Church and the Papacy.

Thus far, no Pope has erred on the sacred so far as to prove it wrong, although they certainly have proved that they too can be possessed by the Devil. Does the Devil have the power to use the lips of a Pope he possesses to command the Church to break with the faith handed down by God?
Thus far, I think that he has not done so.
This comforts me in my faith that he CAN'T.

That said, when I look at the Anglican Communion, I think it's a terrible tragedy that having everything right is not enough to constrain these headstrong men. It does not SURPRISE me, given that I buy the theology of the papacy, that this missing ingredient eventually caused...or allowed...the building to fall.
But it still distresses me.
Satan is on the loose, and the sheep are bleating and wandering in pain. The Holy Spirit needs to send a shepherd.

Now, of course, given that I buy Roman theology, I think that the only shepherd he is ever going to send is at Rome, and that it is pride that prevents the reunion.

But suppose I thought, as Anglicans do, that the Renaissance Popes actually DID commit heresy and actually DID break with the sacred traditions and thereby proved that God does NOT protect the See of Peter from doctrinal error on matters of faith and morals.
Where would I go?

In truth, I would probably go home, disgusted with the whole thing, and give up on Christianity as a false religion. If God held it together for 1500 years only to have it all fall apart in the 1500s, I am more inclined to think that it was illiteracy, tradition, luck, and the simple slowness of everything to change in those times that gave the Church such a good run, and not any intrinsic holy protection.

I cannot believe that God protected the One Church for 1500 years, and then suddenly let it shatter in 1540 into a thousand churches, many of which have themselves dimmed or extinguished.

A Russian theologian once told the Tsar something like "The first Rome fell to the Arian heresy. The second Rome fell to the Saracen. A Third Rome [Russia] stands. A Fourth there shall not be."
But I stop at the first.
If the Roman See, the See of Peter, really was permitted by God to fall to pieces, then I doubt that God has stood behind any other Church either.
Actually, if the First Rome was allowed to fall by God, then I doubt that Christ was God, since it was Christ who gave the power of the keys.

Of course, I don't think that the First Rome ever did fall into heresy, although not for want of trying by some horrible popes. I think they never changed the doctrine. They murdered men, but they did not murder the faith.
I think it was because they COULD not, because God didn't let them.
But perhaps I am very naive.

I do not know what the outcome for Anglican America will be, Deacon. It is my sincere hope that a way for Anglia and Rome to reconcile can be found, because I think that God really did make Rome the anchor, and without it, once the Devil starts to trouble the waters as badly as he has, once he takes captaincy of the ship, the rocks lie ahead and there is no captain who can command the crew and throw the mutineers overboard into the sea.

But who can say.

I do know that if I found Alladins Lamp of Three Wishes, my first wish would be to be transported to spend a day and two nights waiting in a tomb in Palestine all those years ago, to see if It really happened.

11 posted on 06/06/2005 7:51:24 AM PDT by Vicomte13 (Et alors?)
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To: Vicomte13
The Episcopalian Church seems to have come to the brink and headed right over it like a runaway train, dragging along its parishoners with it.
Why the difference?
The only visible thing I can discern is the difference in authority.

I left ECUSA 22 years ago, long before the current issues had come to the fore. I don't think papal authority necessarily made the difference; I think ECUSA simply had a nastier infection of liberalism (though I will admit that an ultimate authority can slam on the brakes, and I hope Benedict 16 will do so). In my case I had seen a major problem at a diocesan level; I also recall reading for some time after my departure of the problems Rome was having with the American Catholic church.

Look at the other protestant churches in various stages of the same problem; are the ones further along the ones with less authority?

12 posted on 06/06/2005 7:53:43 AM PDT by sionnsar (†† || Iran Azadi || Fraud in WA: More votes than voters!)
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To: sionnsar

"Look at the other protestant churches in various stages of the same problem; are the ones further along the ones with less authority?"

The ones with the least authority are very religious and conservative, which seems good. But they hold the Bible as an idol and do not partake of the sacraments, which were THE ways that God left us to come close to him. He left communion, not a Bible dispensary. They don't have Bishops, they do have the Bible, and they don't take the eucharist. They believe that the middle of the two substitutes for the former...which is what the argument over authority is about...AND the latter, without which, there is not much left of the faith that Jesus left.

13 posted on 06/06/2005 7:58:21 AM PDT by Vicomte13 (Et alors?)
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To: Vicomte13; Kolokotronis
I look and see the problem in ECUSA of having the sacraments and having the priests, having the right traditions, being holy, but having nobody with the literal authority of God to command and compel obedience on a spiritual issue when Satan erupts and starts possessing souls.

And yet... I think of what Kolokotronis has told me of the Orthodox, who also lack a central authority.

This makes me think that the weakness of the Anglican church as we have known it historically (I say this because I think that is coming to an end) has been the "Elizabethan Compromise" -- the forced melding of two rather different groups, the Evangelical and the Anglo-Catholic. We came to accept the fact that to be Anglican meant continual tension, that it meant to be in communion with those whom, well, you were in communion with them only because you have "always" shared this common label. And this has led to today's situation in the world-wide Anglican Communion, where the once unthinkable has become reality, and yet there is still an effort to preserve communion overall even though many jurisdictions have already declared themselves out of communion.

Historic Anglicanism doesn't have a quick-acting immune system.

But I am guessing this will come to an end and Anglicanism will divide and coalesce into three groups. The largest will be the Evangelical Anglicans; the REC and Network churches will be part of that group. Their self-authority will likely come to resemble that of the Orthodox.

Next will be the Anglo-Catholics, hopefully with a reunification of the various North American groups; it is possible this group will rejoin Rome as the TAC is even now attempting.

Finally there will be the apostates who will eventually just disappear.

I could be wrong, of course...

14 posted on 06/06/2005 8:13:07 AM PDT by sionnsar (†† || Iran Azadi || Fraud in WA: More votes than voters!)
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To: Vicomte13

That Russian Primate was Nikon, who did for Russian Orthodoxy what William Laud did for Anglicanism: by trying to take a partly-state run church to complete independence, both ended up impeaching the church authority and leaving the bishops even more subservient (and in many cases willingly so) to the state. This was the problem that the Anglican Communion was going to have to face from the start and is why the ABC still can't enforce discipline. Whoever held the miter of Canterbury was still the dependent of the King/Queen, who was legally the head of the English Church. This was also true for the Russian Church.

As for potential Roman apostasy, the closest any Pope ever came was when Symmachus appeared to support dualistic modalism. It is quite possible he was under duress, but that makes him an inadequate Pope. The proclamation he signed was never enforced and Rome immediately returned to clear affirmation of Trinitarian Chalcedonian Christianity. That was back in Augustine's day.

That said, it is perhaps a little unfair to current Catholic prelates to say that prior ones did not lapse when there was every opportunity to do so. At the time, the very way ordinary philosophers and speculators thought was drenched in historic Catholic teleology and cosmology. This meant that every epistomologic road was, from wherever it started, going to end at the Tiber eventually. It was when people like Giordano Bruno started rethinking philosophy from first observed principles that the very foundation of Catholic thought came under attack (as it seemed at the time). Now that many are convinced that there is actually a secular explanation for reality, maintaining the Catholic doctrine becomes ever more difficult: the contrary reasoning has been thought out. Not only that: it is a sad unintended consequence, but if you have been granted an internally consistent explanation for reality, then one which exactly reverses this explanation will also be internally consistent. Both will be unfalsifiable from within their own frames of reference, given their premises. We believe based upon axioms God has revealed to us through His Son and by the grace of His Holy Spirit. They believe on the basis of the intent to reverse the orientation and to put Man as the standard for reference. All you need do is substitute our name for The Name and you don't even have to otherwise change the text to arrive at where they are.

Still, I have been there and have come back. The rationalistic, materialistic explanation for the kosmos does not hold up because it can point to no origin. It becomes even more an article of faith than the Catholic doctrine of creation it presumes to replace. It's also pretty tough to replace Something with nothing. But in this we see the perseverance of the saints and the preservation of His Body by His grace-filled action in the Holy Spirit: God maintains His people even in what look to them to be the worst of times.

Now, what I can't do more than pray for is the continued validity or even existence of protestant Episcopalianism. This is a set of doctrines which has, contrary to Our Lord's explicit injunction, embraced the world, the flesh and the devil as if they thought they could tame these beasts and incorporate them, thus nullifying them. That is hard to distinguish from lunacy, but what can be said is that it reveals that humans can tend to hubris in any condition or Age. This one just happens to be a particularly pride-filled and reckless generation, making the effect all the more glaring.

In Christ,
Deacon Paul+

15 posted on 06/06/2005 8:16:47 AM PDT by BelegStrongbow (I think, therefore I vote Republican)
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To: BelegStrongbow

Deacon, thank you and bless you.
Your final paragraph about the current generation is particularly enlightening.

Now if I could just find that lamp...

16 posted on 06/06/2005 8:23:50 AM PDT by Vicomte13 (Et alors?)
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To: sionnsar

So could we all. But I suspect that the general lines of development will not be dissimilar to your estimate. The only issue is within the Anglo-Catholic stream. It is possible that certain lines of descent in that group will wither because some of the purposes for separation were not necessarily fully worthy. To the extent that any Anglo-Catholic communion keeps her ecclesial, liturgical and doctrinal eyes fixed on her Founder to the exclusion of all other purposes and intents, that communion will thrive.

As for union with Rome, my own preference would be autocephalous standing under a Patriarch with real authority to enforce doctrinal discipline. The issues of certain Marian and treasury of the saints doctrines would likely keep this communion chary of participating in Councils where RCC votes could simply carry the convocation by majoritarian weight of delegates. The issue there must certain refer to the degree of independent episcopal authority bishops subject to Rome would bring as delegates. To the extent that they MUST vote as Rome directs, to that very degree Rome should have rather limited participation by numbers. Perhaps a supra-House of Bishops would come into consideration, to reflect co-equality of Patriarchs rather than weight of bishoprics.

All very speculative and non-substantive, of course.

In Christ,
Deacon Paul+

17 posted on 06/06/2005 8:34:34 AM PDT by BelegStrongbow (I think, therefore I vote Republican)
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To: BelegStrongbow
All very speculative and non-substantive, of course.

I quite concur with your highly-educated guesses, Deacon Paul. *\;-)

18 posted on 06/06/2005 8:55:48 AM PDT by sionnsar (†† || Iran Azadi || Fraud in WA: More votes than voters!)
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To: St. Johann Tetzel

Whassup with the "Priesthood/Married" thread?

19 posted on 06/06/2005 1:28:17 PM PDT by ninenot (Minister of Membership, Tomas Torquemada Gentlemen's Club)
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To: BelegStrongbow

Deacon Paul,

It is interesting to note that when there are actual councils of the Church, they do not operate by majority voting. What happens is something more akin to the Quaker concept of the "covered meeting". While there are, no doubt, politics involved, the issues have not historically been resolved by brutal up and down votes with first-past-the-post majoritarian logic. Something more gentle takes place.

An Anglican patriarchate in full communion with Rome would be a good solution. Why not? English is by now an ancient liturgical language. Let it be just so. The political fears are probably unjustified, but let the Anglicans discover that for themselves. There is a special prelate for Opus Dei. Certainly there can be a unique role for the returned Anglican house. 500 years has made a difference. I don't think it should be enough to keep the Church divided, but it should be enough for special care and love and consideration.

Likewise for the returning Lutherans.
With the Orthodox, the patriarchate is already a given.

20 posted on 06/06/2005 2:47:22 PM PDT by Vicomte13 (Et alors?)
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